This National Historic Monument is important, both because of the islands history, as well as the mental space the park provides for the public to get away from the city. Governors Island was home to a military base working to defend the city we know and love. The Island also holds Castle Williams which was a space both used originally as a fort for defense and the prison holding war prisoners later on.
This week on Governors Island our Field Team worked to repair the counter scarp that wraps around the front of Fort Jay. To do this we used a number of tools and techniques. This included removing any plants that may be blocking our work space or may interfere with the work that needed to be done. Using a measuring cup we were able to get just the right consistency for our mortar. We used our chisels to remove any old mortar that was not holding up and our pointers and hand trowels to replace it with new mortar. This project requires a lot of time management because the days were hot and the mortar would dry up quickly. To keep the mortar from becoming too dry that it would crack, we would wet the bricks to prevent them from absorbing all moisture from the mortar. Most people wouldn’t know this, but bricks react like sponges. They will soak in any bit of moisture that they could get.
Replacing mortar between bricks is important to this National Historic Monument. This is important because it keeps the bricks forming the wall strong and well from any weather/ insect activity, and it also gives it an appealing look. The point of the National Park Service is to preserve and protect these historic sites for the public to view, and learn about its history. If we wouldn’t have preserved these walls by re-pointing them, they would have eventually become weak and begin to erode.
Our technical experts for these past two weeks were Craig Oleszewski and Richard Chilcoat. Craig has been working with the National Park Service for 9 years. He is a senior exhibit specialist and has always liked history and old buildings. He also attended graduate school to study Historic preservation. Richard , has been working for the NPS for 30 years. He is the HACE Branch Chief and loves hands on work as well as architecture, and history.
During this project our field team had many highlights, challenges, and favorites. Some of our highlights were working in shady areas, learning how to mix mortar, assembling the wagons/wheelbarrows and pruning. Our major challenges were the heat, removing mortar from certain areas without hammering our hands, bugs, and mixing mortar to the right consistency without too much water. Other challenges included pumping tires to ride our bikes and keeping hydrated. Our favorite parts of the week included our team building activities and chiseling .
Thanks for reading our blog, See you next week ! 🙂